Let these stunning pieces from a new book on Japanese master Hokusai inspire your next work

A hefty tribute to Katsushika Hokusai shows shows there was more to him than The Great Wave.


Is there a more universally recognised piece from Japan than The Great Wave off Kanagawa (pictured)? Printed in woodblock circa 1829, it helped define its creator Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) as the master of the so-called ukiyo-e genre, a print style that celebrated the ordinary pleasure of the Japanese middle-class, and which flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries in the artist's home country.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and Milan-based publishing house Skira Editions brings us Hokusai: The Master's Legacy, a 300+ page tome featuring over 200 of the artist's paintings, drawings and prints, along with work by those he influenced such as fellow Edo-era artist Keisai Eisen.

In this gallery we present a selection of these pieces for you to marvel at and take inspiration from for your next creative endeavour.

This piece is taken from A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces, the first ukiyo-e series to approach the theme of falling water.

Image: Ono Waterfall, The Kiso Highway, 1830


Here is another example from the same series.

Image: Yoshitsune Falls, 1833

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Part of Hokusai's Small Flowers series, this print is a prime example of the artist's try at the kachou-ga or 'bird and flowers' genre, a tradition that has stretched throughout Chinese and Japanese artwork for centuries.

Image: Cuckoo and Azaleas, 1828


During his 50s, Hokusai went under the name of Taito to produce more commercial pieces, such as this illustration based on Japanese ghost stories that shows Hokusai's love of anthropomorphisation. See the very human face which this lantern sports?

Image: The Lantern Ghost, Iwa, 1826-1837


Hokusai: The Master's Legacy gives us a great look at some of Hokusai's hanging scrolls, and his extensive depictions of flora and fauna.

This piece comes signed 'The Old Man Mad About Art,' referring to the pseudonym Hokusai adopted in his twilight years. 

Image: Detail from Carp and Tortoise, 1839

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This eye-catching scroll demonstrates Hokusai's anthropomorphisation of animal features.

As the book's editor Rossella Menegazzo explains, during his 80s Hokusai tended towards "subjects charged with sacred significance, (creatures) such as tigers, lions and dragons which were considered to be endowed with special powers."

Image: Detail from Tiger in a Bamboo Grove, 1839


Like The Great Wave, this gem is taken from the groundbreaking landscape series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which depicts Japan's most famous mountain from different locations and in various seasons and weather conditions. Look at the background of this print for a glimpse of the sacred Fuji.

Image: Viewing the Sunset over Ryōgoku Bridge from the Onmaya Embankment, 1830-32


Another treasure from the Fuji series.

Image: Fine Wind, Clear Morning, 1830-32

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Hokusai: The Master's Legacy also includes a section devoted to Hokusai's many teaching manuals on the art of drawing. The piece presented here comes form his three-volume Quick Lessons in Simplified Drawing.

Image: Egrets, 1823


Alongside his nature prints, Hokusai also dabbled in erotica like this legendary piece taken from Kinoe no Komatsu, a set that featured various Edo-era artists illustrating over its trio of volumes. Fans of 2016 cinema classic The Handmaiden will definitely recognise this strange beauty.

Image: The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife, 1814